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tv   Tavis Smiley  WHUT  November 22, 2010 7:00pm-7:30pm EST

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tavis: good evening. i'm tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with actor robert duvall. it is has been 30 years since his film debut in "to kill a mockingbird." he's being discussed for another cad by award. if he gets the prize for best actor, it will come on the heels of his 80th birthday. a conversation with robert duvall, coming until right for you.
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tavis: i tell you, i'm hoppered to welcome robert duvall. the legendry actor turning if so many brilliant performances. it is easy to understand why he's a six-time oscar nominee. he's taking home the prize for his role in "tender mercies."
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he's an oscar nominee in his new film "get low." >> i want to be there. >> you will be. >> i want to be there now. >> you want to be at your funeral alive? >> yes, sir. >> but -- you can't have a funeral if you're not -- you know, deceased. hold on now, it is a detail. we can look at it. pretty big detail. >> you want to have a funeral party while you're aleve so you can go. alive so you can go. >> yes or no? >> yes. >> we need to make a list of who mr. bush wants to invite. >> sit down. i want even to come who has a story to tell about me. >> when i saw that, i'ming -- i'm thinking to myself.
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would i want to be at my own funeral alive? >> i'll be at yours but not mine. >> good to see you. >> you been great. >> i'm hanging on. we met many years ago when you did the apostle. >> right. >> that movie is -- as i said so many brilliant performances. that movie, the apostle, you directed it and wrote it and everything? financed it. somebody said you don't get into heaven foothills you shout. you know how it is. heaven unless you shout. you know how it is. people don't know what it means when they worship. it was specific. >> i thought about that last night going over this film, that movie, the apostle was in large measure about faith. >> yes.
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>> the connection in this movie. >> the notion to faith. i'll let you explain it. faith comes up again here. >> it does. i did another movie that was religious. this movie is not religious, it is spiritual i feel, "get low." we did a religion movie with the apostle, hopully spiritual as well without being the trappings of whatever by -- by being religious. >> right. >> the underpinnings should be spiritual. >> -- the -- the element of faith works its what i in this film in what way? >> it is hard to explain. i mean, you could probably do it better than i. it is just something about man that goes to -- to live in the woods by himself for many years to live out his guilt and -- wanting to set up and go to his on funeral to see what people say about him before he really dies. there's something -- there's -- there's spiritual overtone there is without being able to spell
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it out so specifically. >> what -- i don't want to get too much in the way with, it is dangerous walking through the films, you don't want to give away the storyline. what motivates him to want to be present to hear what people are saying about him? >> i think because of something he did in his past that is still not quite clear to him that he feels very ashamed of. he's very guilt ridden and wants to get that off his chest. he wants to hear what people say about him. he ends up telling what he wants to say to them. he wants to get the guilt off his chest before he really dies. >> i have asked this question of other actors in this seat before. but it is -- it is really fascinating for me to get to ask you this. given all you have done in your career at this stage, what specifically is a -- attracting you to projects? >> the parts still. the part. the part. >> yeah. >> the director. who is in it.
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if you can get the money. it is easy to raise $100 million knowing it might fail anyway, $10 million or less. i'm goc to texas tomorrow to try to raise money for a project. very difficult it to raise money. >> what do you make of the way the business changed to your point, it is easy to get $100 million for something that may floop compared to flop compared to $10 million that play soar. in the 0e's, it was as though the film making was in the system and now it is outside the system. they do big block bust err movies and budget movies. do i think get low would fit well in the 70's. i think it could have held its own as a independent film within the system. somebody once said, a famous director once told me, no good movies have been made since the 0e's. he hasn't made any good one since the 70's.
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i won't mention any names. >> you don't believe that? >> no. look how it opened up. i can tell you just off the top of my head, the a.m. appleby a 17-year-old. beautiful movie, movies are made all over. there's african-americans, there's spanish. latin. more people can act now. there's room for all. i say going into the 21st century, a lot of young people rather than wanting to write novels, even wants to be in film. it is in. i say the doors are open. come on in. i think the young actors are better than ever. >> you don't think there's something in the process that is being sacrificed and getting sacrificed by studios wanting to refinance, sequel one or two? >> i don't think they'll make a sequel to get low. it is too unique. those films. it is such a big $10 million or less -- the arctic -- artistly
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are what keeps everything afloat. but the studios now make good movies now and then. it is all about when you go on the movies and see the previews, it is all about violence and guns and -- it is amazing. that's all they show, it seems. tavis: you turned off by that personally? the violence. you been in violent stuff. >> i have. >> even more. it is there. as long as it is kind of justified. not grat tuteuous but a lot of times it is. tavis: you mentioned you will hop on a plane to go to texas to beg for money for a project. why work this hard at this age? to do all of that. >> i want tolittle longer. tavis: you could be happy on your farm in virginia and -- >> not totally happy. tavis: your legacy is locked and loaded. you don't have to do this.
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>> i'm getting offered parts that are as good or better than ever. terry gillian wants me to go to europe and play don quijotey. that's a great part. and he can't get money. billy bob thornton have written a brilliant script about the south that puts tennessee williams in a back seat. it is so good. he's trying to raise money. it is difficult. you keep searching, you know, you -- i like to hang around younger people. keeps me young. my wife is younger. when i met my father-in-law and i said i don't know when to call you father or son. and wilford brimly. there was a bodyguard for howard hughes. interesting guy. i said, i got this young girl. even say i shouldn't have her. she's so much younger. he said listen, the worst thing for an old man is a old woman. i said, okay. if you hang out with young
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people, you know, younger -- that's the way things go now, it seems. it keeps you young and wanting to search a little bit. tavis: let me take you back into your younger days. >> long time ago. tavis: how did you know this was your -- in the spirit of the movie "the apostle" that this was your calling and purpose? >> to be an actor in this business. it is interesting. i come from a military family. he fought the nas. came back, and -- i was floundering around in clean -- in -- in the late 40's and early 50's. it was my parents that nudged me into being an actor on a academic level as an sexeedyent thing to get through. then when i finished my tour as a draftee then i went to new york and they -- they were the ones that brought it up. i should be an actor.
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tavis: it is one thing -- >> i'm grateful to them. tavis: it is one thing to be nudged in that direction. how did you know that -- you obviously gifted. >> i didn't know. by thought i would give it a try. we had done skits around the house. it is easy to do it for your parents and friends. they think you're great but to translate that into a worldwide thing. i don't know. i said i'm willing to give it a shot. let me go to new york and try. tavis: you're making this difficult. when did you know you were good at this? >> you never know. tavis: you know. >> there's always people -- i'll give you an example whp we had an opening night party for the godfather, which was a great film, i think. i think we did good work. tavis: it was out -- just honored here recently in l.a. >> yeah. a well known director came up with a big cigar and said to us actors, you boys were wonderful in this movie. he said, i don't know about the
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movie, he said, and in six lifetimes this guy couldn't do one. you know, you know, i mean, i guess you -- you -- when you get feedback from people that you respect, now i have an oscar on one mantle in virginia and on the other side, i have a letter from marlon brando who was like our godfather. that's more important to me than the oscar. if brando thinks i'm okay, then other people you respect, then you think maybe i'm okay, i'm good at this. tavis: that's important to have people you admire and respect? >> that's true with any actor, i think. i think so. yeah. what's your process? how do you know when you have nailed what you intended to give in a particular performance? at the end of the day or scene, is there something that you could tell me that you tap into to know >> that's a good question.
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because you want to know between acts in a cut. that small lifetime between those two words. i guess, you know, if you why -- if you felt you did something truthful and didn't push something and came from you in a pure way. it could have gone differently. some directors that do 60, 70 takes. it is enough. when i did the "apostle" i said i would put up a mirror so i could yell at the director anytime i wanted to. i didn't do it. if there was a director there, not me, is it okay? i'm okay, let's move on. instead. of having somebody really this, then i know it was okay and if somebody was standing there, they would agree with me. so then, you know, you go on from there. a sense of truth -- talking and listening like we're doing now, it begins and ends with this. somebody said, i saw you in
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something and all you did was play yourself. try. it is not easy. tavis: what is it like directing robert duvall? >> it is okay. i am easier to direct myself than other guys directing me. >> tavis: that wasn't -- that wasn't like -- schizophrenic for you jumping in front of the camera? >> no, they say when you direct, it is so tiger -- then if you do both forget it. i found that it was easier if somebody knocked on my trailer door, and they said would you do the scene just as an actor. i found it exhilarating and relaxing and easier than playing a regular part directing and acting myself. it was wonderful. i did it twice. that tango movie di with my wife. it was wonderful. wed apostle -- on the apostle. it is great. tavis: i think i read somewhere
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when you were filming this movie get hoe, the director passed away. i'll tell you. what happened was more top foot, the great writer. lee he's -- he's really a great writer. he is as good as any as we have ever had. i think. he was 93 at the time. i said horton, i want you to live to see the movie because it is very much like your writing. i kept telling him that. now the final speech i give, the first day i give it to the audience about why i -- i did what i did in my life. and now here comes the mule with the -- with the coffin that i built for when i really die. and the camera was rolling, visually and -- speaking and everything was going on. my wife was off camera. she got a phone call that horton foot the great play write just died. it was full circle from kill a mockingbird to this moment. he was on the present.
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he was there. she told me, i got very moved. it was so ironic. and then the most specific way. tavis: when you look back on kill a mockingbird 50 years later. >> 50 years. tavis: you see it and think what? >> you know, i started out in the theater but i rather -- do films, because you don't have to do it eight times a week. and i have had a wonderful career and i'm very grateful. it -- still there's more before the -- before i drool. there's more. i want to do more. gene hackman is a wonderful actor, he's retired. god bless him. i heard he was ill. i haven't been in touch with him. like, i think it was michael crain or somebody said, you don't retire, the business retires you. when the business retires me, i'll be ready. i want to do a few more things. it is a wonderful business to be able to do -- certain things.
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i only -- lone some dove was my favorite. the -- departure from that is when i played joseph stalin on television. i took it out. i hadn't seen it in 20 years. i said, i think i did okay. the final scene with my daughter, i said, i don't think i could do any better. then you know, who knows what some people like, some don't. and nikita mchale's father, was stalin's personal poet. eight times he worked with stalin and wrote the national anthem and when he saw the movie, he liked it and what di. that was -- i don't read very views, but that's the greatest review i ever got. when i touched the soul of stalin. he knew stalin. when i went to hbo they were not well organized. i never knew the guy was alive until i got back to the states. nobody introduced me to him. it would have helped my
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research. that was -- i don't look at my work that often but -- that -- that -- it was very different from something like lone some dove and different from something like to kill a mockingbird and the other things with horton foot that di. tavis: when you say you think lone some dove was your favorite. tell me why. >> here's a guy that loved and respected women, even though they were prostitutes. he loved life. he said to his partner, we were texas rangers but we killed ull people that were the most interesting that we should have let live. looking back on his life, he was a philosopher. i said let the english play hamlet and i'll play justin mccray. he was a great character. i was fortunate enough to be in godfather one and two and lone some do have, which were the two biggest -- lone some dove, which were the two biggest things
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almost in history. but god pear was better directed. but lone some dove, i walked in and said, boys, we're making godfather a western. i was fortunate enough to be in those two films and they were much different. the part of mccray was very unique. i love horses and all of that tavis: what you say in this conversation, what you regard as sack crow sanget and they're not academies but the respect of giants like bran toe, i wasn't surprised to hear you say this but when you say you don't read your reviews, you never have, what is the story behind that? >> i hear about them. tavis: why don't you read them? >> you know, i just -- you know, i mean everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion but when i get a review like this, the
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gentleman who was tallen -- stalin's poet, that means more than somebody that writes for the norkts who just has an -- "new york times," who just has an opinion and never studied acting with anybody. i don't think pauline kale had an acting symposium that she gave. very subjective. i just -- the best reviews i guess i ever got, so i was told was when i did american buffalo on broadway and when i did lone some tove. i got another -- i got good reviews and bad ones like we all have. i just try not to read them. if i read one bad one that sets me off for a month. tavis: we don't want to set rob bert duvall off. >> i remember i was doing a bridge off broadway. and i walked by the guy and gave him the finger as i walked by. i don't want to know.
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everybody entitled to your opinion. and you get feedback from people you respect, that letter brando sent me, he really responded to the apostle. so i -- i felt go about that because -- billy graham liked it. and brando liked it. i got it from the religious and the secular. i felt good. you know. >> when you said a few minutes ago, there's still more here before they wipe the drool off, you got more in you. >> i hope so. tavis: is there just more in you, which is pretty good coming out of you, is there just more if you or at this point do you think you're still getting better at this? >> i always told someone way back i would like to think of myself in the potential that i would get better. -- i was always a late bloomer. i'm still blooming a bit. i think that maybe when i was yucker -- younger and had to
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fight through since to get a sense of reality. i think it comes more easily and offhandedly. everything should be offhanded. in now you can start at zero and end at zero. you don't put the burden to get to a result. let the process take you there. i worked with a guy one time in a movie. he said to the old time director, when i say action, tense up, dam it. you may -- can you imagine saying that to joe montana. there's a difference between intensity and tenseness. i think i become more off hand and you can still have emotional things if you're off hand and more relaxed and maybe -- maybe i'm better as i get older. >> i want to end our conversation where we began. i don't want to be more bid about this. again you got so much stuff left to do. you went there earlier. >> you said it. tavis: if it was early, i want
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to come back. this movie is about a guy that wants to hear what people say about him while he's living and can still take it in. >> yes. >> so, if robert duvall were to do that, what -- what do you want, hope or expect that people are going to say about you and your life and your legacy? >> whether i'm there or not? tavis: yeah. >> when i'm really gone. i don't know. that's really up to them. tavis: you got to want them to say something. you got to hope. >> hopefully between -- between the cradle and the grave we have a journey. i hope my journey has been with some grace and that i haven't offended too many people or hurt too many people. i did it my way and that journey from the cradle to the grave is what i have dope and hopefully it is okay. people -- what i have done and hopefully it is okay. certain people respect me and love me for it. you only have so many close friends.
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i only have one in the business, jimmy kahne. we have great times together. be loved and respected by those that love you the most. tavis: that's all that matters. >> i love this guy. what an honor to have the opportunity to spend an entire show talking to the great robert duvall. the movie is called get low. and glad to have you here. >> thank you. thanks for having me. tavis: my pleasure. i'm honored. thanks for tuning in. until next time, keep the faith. >> there he is, mr. tait. he can tell you his name.
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boo? >> mr. arthur radly. i believe he already knows you. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley. at swbt >> join me next week with clice chris on her new memoir. that's next time. we'll see you then. >> all i know his name is james and he needs extra help with his reading. >> yes. to everyone making a difference, thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every
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answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide on your side. >> by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. >> thank you. ♪ qp >> be more.
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